I am kicking off my annual MLB season preview with a look at the National League West division. The teams are listed in the order of finish I am predicting for the 2014 season.
Los Angeles Dodgers
MANAGER: Don Mattingly (fourth season)
2013 RECORD: 92-70 (first place)
2012/2013 COMBINED RECORD: 178-146 (+32)
2014 OVER/UNDER WIN TOTAL: 93.5
KEY OFFSEASON ADDITIONS: 3B Justin Turner, RHP Chris Perez, LHP Paul Maholm, RHP Dan Haren, RHP Jamey Wright, 2B Alex Guerrero
KEY OFFSEASON LOSSES: LHP Ted Lilly, SS Nick Punto, RHP Ronald Belisario, LHP Chris Capuano, 2B Mark Ellis, RHP Ricky Nolasco, RHP Carlos Marmol, RHP Edinson Volquez, OF Jerry Hairston Jr., OF Skip Schumaker
NOTES: From June 21, 2013, when they sat 9.5 games behind the Arizona Diamondbacks, until the end of the regular season, the Dodgers won 62 of 90 games to win the division by 11 games -- a 20.5-game turnaround. They are an expensive work in progress. They have two players coming back from injuries -- center fielder Matt Kemp and starting pitcher Josh Beckett -- who could make them nearly unbeatable.
MANAGER: Walt Weiss (second season)
2013 RECORD: 74-88 (fifth place)
2012/2013 COMBINED RECORD: 138-186 (-48)
2014 OVER/UNDER WIN TOTAL: 75.5
KEY OFFSEASON ADDITIONS: LHP Brett Anderson, LHP Franklin Morales, RHP Jordan Lyles, OF Brandon Barnes, 1B Justin Morneau, OF Drew Stubbs, RHP LaTroy Hawkins, LHP Boone Logan
KEY OFFSEASON LOSSES: OF Dexter Fowler, LHP Drew Pomeranz, 1B Todd Helton, LHP Jeff Francis, RHP Mitchell Boggs
NOTES: I am going out on a limb a bit here in picking the Rockies to finish second after back-to-back last-place finishes in the division. Clearly, the Rockies need a healthy season from shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. First baseman Justin Morneau is a solid, under-the-radar pickup to replace Todd Helton. The top three members of the rotation -- Jorge De La Rosa, Jhoulys Chacin and Tyler Chatwood -- combined for a 38-21 record in 2013. It's the other 103 games they have to improve upon. Walt Weiss may be a superstar skipper in the making.
San Francisco Giants
MANAGER: Bruce Bochy (eighth season)
2013 RECORD: 76-86 (third place)
2012/2013 COMBINED RECORD: 170-154 (+16)
2014 OVER/UNDER WIN TOTAL: 85.5
KEY OFFSEASON ADDITIONS: RHP Tim Hudson, OF Mike Morse, OF Tyler Colvin, RHP Kameron Loe
KEY OFFSEASON LOSSES: LHP Barry Zito, RHP Guillermo Mora, RHP Jose Mijares, RHP Chad Gaudin, OF Francisco Peguero, OF Jeff Francoeur
NOTES: The Giants could go either way. Their 86 losses in 2013 marked their first losing record since 2008. San Francisco has won two of the last four World Series. When three members of the rotation -- Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum and Ryan Vogelsong -- were off their game, they exposed a team that struggled offensively. General manager Brian Sabean made a shrewd move in bringing in starting pitcher Tim Hudson on a two-year contract, which may just be what jumps the Giants back in the race.
MANAGER: Kirk Gibson (fourth season)
2013 RECORD: 81-81 (second place)
2012/2013 COMBINED RECORD: 162-162
2014 OVER/UNDER WIN TOTAL: 80
KEY OFFSEASON ADDITIONS: OF Mark Trumbo, RHP Addison Reed, RHP Bronson Arroyo, LHP Oliver Perez
KEY OFFSEASON LOSSES: OF Adam Eaton, RHP Heath Bell, RHP Tyler Skaggs, 3B Willie Bloomquist, C Wil Nieves
NOTES: This division from top to bottom is the NL's version of the American League East. General manager Kevin Towers and manager Kirk Gibson both received extensions during the offseason. The club made a nice offensive pickup in Mark Trumbo, who will nail down the left field job. His presence improves an offense that is already one of the top five or six in the NL. If pitching prospect Archie Bradley becomes relevant by midseason, Arizona could easily jump above San Francisco and Colorado.
San Diego Padres
MANAGER: Bud Black (eighth season)
2013 RECORD: 76-86 (fourth place)
2012/2013 COMBINED RECORD: 152-172 (-20)
2014 OVER/UNDER WIN TOTAL: 78.5
KEY OFFSEASON ADDITIONS: RHP Josh Johnson, RHP Joaquin Benoit, OF Seth Smith, LHP Alex Torres
KEY OFFSEASON LOSSES: RHP Luke Gregerson, LHP Cory Luebke (injury), RHP Brad Brach, RHP Jason Marquis, SS Ronny Cedeno, 1B Jesus Guzman, LHP Clayton Richard, RHP Anthony Bass
NOTES: Center fielder Cameron Maybin's injury is a setback. Otherwise, up the middle -- shortstop Everth Cabrera (back from a suspension related to performance-enhancing drugs), second baseman Jedd Gyorko and catcher Yasmani Grandal -- can all play. Chase Headley at third base and Carlos Quentin in left field are the difference makers. Reliever Joaquin Benoit should combine with Huston Street to make the late innings comforting for manager Bud Black. I am banking on two key comebacks out of starters Ian Kennedy, acquired in July 2013 as part of a trade with the Diamondbacks, and Josh Johnson, who has been awful the past two seasons.